LONDON -- Colonel Moamar Qaddafi is "in denial" about events in Libya and has refused a personal plea from Tony Blair to stand down, the former British prime minister said Sunday night.
In an exclusive interview with The London Times, Blair disclosed that he had spoken to the colonel twice Friday. The dictator repeated his public threat to stay in his country -- in the throes of a bloody uprising against his four-decade regime -- and die.
Blair, who talked to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton before making his calls, has been involved in efforts to stop the fighting in Libya. Asked if his stomach churned when he saw what was happening, he said: "Of course. What is happening shocks everyone. We want to see it brought to an end."
Blair was seen as the leader who brought Qaddafi back into the fold. "We thought it right if they were willing to change their policies at a time when Libya was at the top of everyone's concerns," he said. "It was the right thing to respond."
Blair refused to comment on whether the Scottish government, backed by the Labour Party, had been correct to release Abdul Baset Ali al Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber, who was freed from prison on compassionate grounds in 2009. But he distanced himself from the decision to use the prisoner transfer agreement to bring about his release.
Blair said that he had deliberately maintained his contacts with Qaddafi, who he met in the desert in 2004, after leaving Downing Street and becoming a Middle East peace envoy. Although the Qaddafi family has claimed that Blair is a friend, he denied profiting personally from the relationship.